A month-long campaign is being launched by Police Scotland today (Tuesday 1st November) to raise awareness among dog owners about the devastating effects of livestock worrying.
It coincides with a rise in livestock attacks by dogs during November, a time when sheep are brought down to low lying pasture, in areas more accessible by people exercising their dogs or by local dogs that are allowed to roam free.
The Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, a multi-agency partnership which includes Police Scotland, National Farmers of Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates, is working with Scottish Natural Heritage to promote responsible dog walking in the countryside.
Inspector Jane Donaldson, Police Scotland Rural Crime Co-ordinator, said: “Rural dog owners and those who choose to exercise their dogs in the countryside must ensure they are under control at all times and avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says that dogs shouldn’t be taken into fields where there are lambs or other young farm animals.
“The worrying of sheep and other livestock by domestic dogs not only has an obvious financial and emotional impact on farmers when their animals are killed or injured, but also has an effect on the animals themselves, their productivity and welfare.
“During a campaign in this year’s spring lambing season we discovered in nearly three quarters of livestock worrying cases, the offending dog was local to that area, with more than half of all incidents involving a dog roaming free and where no owner or responsible person was present.”
“The partners involved in this initiative are also encouraging farmers to help educate dog owners and dog walkers and prevent incidents occurring.
“We are encouraging farmers and landowners to engage with dog walkers and to help by putting up signs up on gateways and on key roads and paths alerting them to the presence of sheep and other livestock in their fields”, added Inspector Donaldson.
Farmers and those who use the countryside are urged to report all incidents of livestock worrying to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
“Police Scotland will robustly enforce the existing legislation, ensuring all reported cases of livestock being attacked by dogs are thoroughly investigated and offenders reported to the Procurator Fiscal,” added Inspector Donaldson.
Gemma Cooper, Policy Manager for National Farmers (Scotland) added: "NFUS is pleased to see this initiative, as it is a cause which it has been championing for some time now. Instances of dog worrying are never acceptable; they cause our farmers personal heartache, and often substantial and ongoing financial loss. It is disappointing that instances are still high in number. We would urge farmers affected by this issue to ensure that they report this via 101 as this will help ensure that the multi organisation momentum that has been ongoing for some time now is kept up. In addition, we would urge Local Authorities to use Dog Control Notices more frequently, as this option can be very effective, but is currently quite underutilised as a method of dealing with this problem."
Katy Dickson, Scottish Land & Estates Policy Manager said, “Scottish Land & Estates supports Police Scotland’s autumn campaign to prevent livestock worrying. This is a fantastic time of year to be out of doors, but we encourage people in rural areas to be aware that livestock may be nearby and to exercise their dogs responsibly in accordance with the Outdoor Access Code. We hope farmers will also get behind the campaign and engage with the public. The impacts of livestock worrying are devastating for all involved and can be avoided by keeping dogs under close control.”
Theresa Kewell, Policy Manager for Scottish Natural Heritage said “We are also encouraging dog owners to find out how to keep themselves and their dogs safe by checking the advice on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website – search for www.Jessthedog.org.uk. It’s always good to have the knowledge and foresight to see how and when problems could arise so to be alert to the work of the farming community is very useful.”